The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick

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June 23, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 26

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
Travelers Shift To Rail As Cost Of Fuel Rises
New London Bridge Replacement To Move Forward
  Commuter Lines…
Transit Overload
  Service Lines…
Rising Waters Of The Mississippi Disrupt Amtrak Service
   Throughout Midwest
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Across The Pond…
Deutsche Bahn Reports 10% Increase In Frankfurt
   – Vienna Rail Passenger Traffic
North Rhine Westphalia Pulls The Emergency Brake
   – Declares Deutsche Bahn In Breach Of Contract
Rail Advocacy Group Decries Shrinking German Rail Network
Rail Travel Punctuality In Great Britain Reaches All-Time High
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...

Travelers Shift To Rail As Cost Of Fuel Rises

Demand Exposes Weaknesses Of A Long Neglected System

By DF Staff and Internet Sources

JUNE 21 --- Matt Wald’s front page article in the New York Times (June 21) “Travelers Shift to Rail...” lays out the conundrum we are now facing as soaring gas prices create a surge in ridership in rail. This is good news “up to a point,” writes Wald, but the country’s infrastructure and rolling stock have shrunk so much that it cannot grow fast enough to meet the heavy demand of increased riders.

“Many of the long-distance trains are already sold out for some days this summer. Want to take Amtrak’s daily Crescent train from New York to New Orleans? It is sold out on July 5, 6, 7 and 8. Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, on July 5? The train is sold out, but Amtrak will sell you a bus ticket.

“We’re starting to bump up against our own capacity constraints,” said R. Clifford Black, a spokesman for Amtrak.

The problem is that rail has shriveled. The number of “passenger miles” traveled on intercity rail has dropped by about two-thirds since 1960, and the companies that build rail cars and locomotives have also shrunk, making it hard to expand.”

Since 1970, the article continues, when Amtrak was created by Congress, highway and air travel have increased hundreds of times faster than rail [due to crippling levels of investment in Amtrak in contrast to the hundreds of billions of public dollars poured into the other modes – Editor’s note]. Measured in “passenger miles” traveled, intercity rail has shrunk by two-thirds since 1960 as have the companies that build rail equipment.

As a result, Amtrak today has only 632 usable rail cars. “... dozens more are worn out or damaged but could be reconditioned and put into service at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars each.”

It’s needs new rail cars, but this can take years while waiting for specifications, vendors and delivery.

“Amtrak is an alternative to airlines along the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, and on some routes out of Chicago and a few in California,” writes Wald. “But most of its other routes are so slow that people take those trains because they have no alternative to reach places like Burlington, N.C., or Burlington, Iowa. Or they go for the train ride itself. ”

One idea, expressed by Glenn Scammel, former head of staff of the rail subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, would be to “ give up on some of its cross-country trains and redeploy the equipment on relatively short intercity trips, where it could provide enough frequency to attract new business. (Providing one train a day in each direction will not draw many new business travelers.)”

To this suggestion, NCI President Jim RePass responded:

Long distance trains are NOT the cause of Amtrak’s equipment shortage. The Bush Administration is. Long distance trains aren’t for carrying people slowly from New York to New Orleans, or Chicago to Los Angeles. Most riders on those trains are there on a trip of 800 miles or less, and they are there because they have no other choice. With the near-complete demise of small air service, never mind the major airlines’ current implosion, that demand is going nowhere but up.

Those routes need three trains a day, at a minimum, and sometimes more, and always have; it’s just that highways have had a trust fund for decades, and rail never has.

The answer is to pay attention to what people like Gil Carmichael, former Republican head of the Federal Railroad Administration, and like our organization, the National Corridors Initiative, have been saying for years: just as we built Interstate I --- highways -- for the 20th century, it is time to build Interstate II --- high speed rail on the dozens of corridors that need it, and long-distance service connecting those --- for the 21st century, to once again have a strong, balanced national transportation system that can enable America to compete once again in world markets.

Two landmark bills in Congress, which could at last give Amtrak a guaranteed revenue stream of several billion dollars over a period of six years, have passed the House and Senate and will soon go to conference.

Amtrak’s fate rests with the political leaders, and specifically, whoever is in the White House come January 2009. Senator McCain opposed federal subsidies to Amtrak when he was chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, but Senator Obama is in favor of government support for the railroad.


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New London Bridge Replacement To Move Forward

Substitute Trains And Buses Provided During Four-Day Outage

From Amtrak Media Relations, The Day Newspaper Of New London

NEW LONDON, CT -- The Thames River Bridge replacement, postponed last week because of difficulty dismantling the counterweight of the 90-year-old bridge, will start on June 24 and is scheduled to be completed by June 27.

Unexpected complications with the old draw span’s massive concrete counterweight made it necessary for Amtrak’s contractors to delay the work until the problems could be worked out. After more than two years of preparation and construction, Amtrak will install a new vertical lift span to replace the movable bascule portion of the bridge, marking the final stage of a multi-year, $83 million project designed to improve the reliability of the bridge, reduce the chance of operational failures, and minimize train delays.

Meanwhile, marine interests are waiting anxiously for the bridge to open so that boats which need a clearance of 30 feet or more can pass underneath. The bridge has been closed since June 1.

Amtrak will offer considerable substitute service on all four days – close to what NARP had originally advocated and a vast improvement over the original plan to offer no substitute service at all for intermediate points between Boston and New Haven.

Highlights of the new service plan are below (for complete details, see Amtrak’s news release):

Amtrak apologizes for any additional inconvenience resulting from the shift in plans. For detailed information on train and bus schedules during the outage, customers may check amtrak.com or call 1-800-USA-RAIL.

Alternate Service Highlights

Monday, June 23

Late afternoon trains 94, 178 will terminate at Springfield and New Haven,
respectively.

Train 66 will terminate in New York City.

Tuesday through Friday, June 24 through 27

All Acela Express service is canceled north of New York City. (Acela will operate normally between New York and Washington.)

Three Northeast Regional round-trips will operate between New York and Boston via Hartford and Springfield (the “Inland Route”), offering coach, business class and café service.

Bus operators are being contacted for limited connecting bus services between Rhode Island points and New Haven. Bus schedules will be announced when they become available.

Three daily round-trip trains will operate between New London, Conn., and New Haven, with an intermediate stop at Old Saybrook, Conn. These trains will connect at New Haven with other Amtrak trains to points west and south, and two of the three trains will accommodate Connecticut DOT monthly ticket holders.

One round-trip train will operate between Westerly, RI and Boston, operating in the morning northbound and the evening southbound. ? During the bridge outage, no Amtrak service will be provided at Route 128, Mass. to points south, and passengers are directed to either Providence or Boston. MBTA service between Providence and Boston will operate normal service during the outage.

During the bridge outage, no service will be offered at Westerly, R.I. to points west and south.

Mystic, Conn., will have neither bus nor train service during the outage, and passengers should go to New London or Westerly. Saturday, June 28.

Regularly scheduled service resumes (except for train 195 and 99, which will have modified schedules.)

During the bridge outage, Amtrak personnel and signs will be utilized to assist passengers with the adjusted schedules at stations along the Shoreline Route.

 

About Amtrak

Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 21,000-mile route system.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...

Transit Overload

Rush Hour Crunch Has Shifted From Congested Highways To Jampacked Transit Systems

By DF Staff and Internet Sources

From Calgary to San Francisco to Palm Beach County, Florida, shyrocketing gas prices are driving more and more commuters to trains and buses instead of taking their cars.

In the first three months of 2008, the number of trips taken on public transport in the US rose 3 percent to 2.6 billion, creating pressures on some transportation systems to cope with increasing ridership. Transit officials in southern California and elsewhere are now encouraging employers to stagger employee schedules to ease the rush hour crunch on trains and buses and Metrolink plans to add 107 rail cars to its fleet of 155 as soon as next year.

Mass transit ridership is at its highest point in 50 years, according to research by the American Public Transportation Association. In Seattle, commuter rail ridership recorded the biggest jump in the nation during the first quarter, with 28 percent more riders than during the same time last year. Ridership in Harrisburg, Pa., rose 17 percent. In Oakland, Calif., it rose 15.8 percent.

Streetcars and trolleys had the highest percentage increase, at 10.3 percent. Other increases in cities across the country indicate the same trend for the first three months of 2008:

In Calgary the increased demand for transit is straining the system.

A report says bus routes are overloaded 40 to 50 times during any given week and C-trains are also struggling with the demand.

Just last month, there were 8,000,000 riders taking the bus or C-train, that’s up 12% from last year.

Alderman Brian Pincott says the system is working but service may be suffering.

The director of Calgary transit says gas prices are clearly having an impact on ridership, and the department is doing all they can to keep up with the higher demand.

Not built for modern loads

As Alex Johnson wrote in a special report for MSNBC, be careful what you wish for. Transportation experts for years have been urging the public to get out of their cars and use public transit, but in many places the systems are not equipped to handle such huge increases. While many cities in the U. S. have invested heavily in transit during the past fifteen years, many others have not. Now that people are demanding service, there isn’t the infrastructure to provide it.

“We’re seeing it in a lot of other metropolitan areas where there just [aren’t] viable transit options — places like Indianapolis, Orlando or Raleigh,” said Robert Puentes, a transportation and urban planning scholar with the Brookings Institution, a public policy association in Washington. “They haven’t put the money into it. They haven’t put the resources into it.”

Even those big cities with robust systems are struggling, Puentes said.

“There are major challenges in most of the older, established transit systems, places like New York or Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston — places that are really starting to show their age,” he said.

No room on the bus

One of those places is Washington, D.C., where officials of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, serving the nation’s capital and its suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, are studying contingency plans to deal with weekday ridership that is up during every part of the day over this time last year.

The authority’s subway system, already under pressure from riders to add a fifth line, recorded an 8.5 percent increase in ridership in April over last year. Transit officials project that a fifth line could swell ridership by another 40 percent in Maryland.

Washington-area bus riders, meanwhile, complain of standing-room-only buses at any time of the day or night, while buses are so full in Indianapolis that would-be riders are often refused entry, left to watch as buses drive off without them.

“I was standing there for about an hour,” said Ryan Taber, who rides the Fishers Express bus from his home in Hamilton County to his job in downtown Indianapolis.

“No buses ever came by, so finally we stopped a bus going to Carmel and said, ‘What’s the deal?’ And the driver said, ‘The buses were full, so they didn’t even come by this stop,’” Taber said.

Likewise in Austin, Texas, where “some of our operators are telling us that sometimes the buses are so full that they have to tell passengers to wait for the next bus,” said Misty Whited, a spokeswoman for Capital Metro Transit.

More riders mean lower tax revenue

Mass transit is supposed to get cars off the road, and it’s working: For the first time since 1980, the number of miles driven fell last year, from 3.014 trillion to 3.003 trillion, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The drop continued by another 2.3 percent in the first quarter of this year, the FHA said.

Steve Taubenkibel, a spokesman for Washington Metro, said, “Any time you can get more people off the roads, highways and on mass transit, it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Except when it isn’t. That’s because when gas prices go up, gas purchases go down. And while the price of a gallon of gas may soar, the tax levied on it remains the same. Less gas sold equals less tax revenue for states and municipalities.

So far this fiscal year, gas consumption is down about 3 percent in Indiana, costing the state about $12 million, state Budget Director Chris Ruhl said. That’s money that would have helped fund road construction and repair.

While politicians debate suspending the federal gas tax to give drivers a break, many state officials are swinging in the opposition direction. Florida, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky and Maine have raised their gas taxes this year. Georgia legislators tried to get an increase of 2.9 cents in the state’s 18.5 cent-a-gallon tax, but Governor Sonny Perdue vetoed it.

In Ohio, transportation planners have proposed an increase of 40 cents more per gallon.

Another problem facing overloaded transit systems is the increased cost of fuel moving more passengers requires extra fuel.

Wichita Transit in Kansas, which has seen a 22 percent increase in ridership, has raised its weekly fuel purchase to 8,000 gallons. One recent delivery cost 30 cents a gallon more than it had the week before, officials said.

It all adds up to a conundrum for government officials — high fuel prices send passengers to mass transit but drive down tax revenue and strain fuel budgets.

“With gas at this level, rail and public transit has got to be a bigger and bigger part of our future,” Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine said.

Answers aren’t expected any time soon, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. He added: “We need a dramatically different energy policy for our country, and that’s not going to happen overnight.”


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SERVICE LINES... Service Lines...

Rising Waters Of The Mississippi Disrupt Amtrak Service Throughout Midwest

By DF Staff From The Internet, Interviews With Fort Madison Business Owners,
And Rocky Mountain News

FORT MADISON, IOWA – Amtrak had planned to restore passenger service last week through downtown Fort Madison, which had been disrupted by record flooding. As recently as Thursday, June 19, even though the train station was still surrounded by water, railroad officials were hopeful the flooding would abate enough for the train to reach the station on Friday.

The Southwest Chief, which runs between Kansas City, Mo., and Chicago with a stop in Fort Madison on the Mississippi River, was suspended in Iowa on June 17. Passengers who normally board the train in Fort Madison have been using stations in Galesburg, Illinois, and La Plata, Missouri.


Photo: Tiger’s Railroad Index 

At the Station, passengers board

On Friday, employees in the Fort Madison Chamber of Commerce and in the Office of Tourism told DF staff that the water still surrounded the train station, although the downtown area, they said, which is a little higher, was open for business.

Michelle Young, who runs a jewelry store in the town, said that the water started to recede but “yesterday the water level came back up, so the area around the train station was still flooded. But we’re dry here in the downtown. The land is higher.”

Throughout Midwest, it’s the same story

The California Zephyr route between Denver and Chicago has been suspended. Amtrak also said it has temporarily suspended the Kansas City, Mo.-Galesburg, Ill., part of its Southwest Chief route, and the St. Paul, Minn.-Chicago leg of its Empire Builder service.

Amtrak is providing alternate service in Denver using a combination of chartered buses and other train lines, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari. Passengers heading to destinations east of Omaha will have to make several connections along the way.

Amtrak said the disruptions could last for several days.

“We’ve asked passengers to stay in touch with us at least through Friday,” Magliari said. “We’ll also be updating our Web page as conditions warrant.”

For updated Amtrak information, passengers can call 1-800-USA-RAIL or go to www.amtrak.com.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)103.02104.68
Canadian National (CNI)49.4549.59
Canadian Pacific (CP)66.9064.59
CSX (CSX)64.8365.42
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)36.7138.37
Kansas City Southern (KSU)47.5247.01
Norfolk Southern (NSC)63.7463.42
Providence & Worcester (PWX)20.9521.00
Union Pacific (UNP)76.8875.57


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ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...

News From David Beale
NCI foreign correspondent

 

Deutsche Bahn Reports 10% Increase In Frankfurt – Vienna Rail Passenger Traffic

FRANKFURT am MAIN – Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) stated that its six-time daily Intercity Express (ICE) route operated in cooperation with ÖBB (Austrian Railways) registerd more than a 10% increase in passenger traffic in the past six months compared with the same period one year ago.

DB seeks to expand its services between Germany Austria and is confronting several low cost airlines such as Air Berlin and Ryanair, which fly between several cities in the two neighboring countries, with new lower rail ticket prices. DB has started offering the “Europa Special” fares between various city pairs in Germany and Austria for a price of €  29.00 – € 39.00 each way (US$ 43 - $ 58).


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North Rhine Westphalia Pulls The Emergency Brake – Declares Deutsche Bahn In Breach Of Contract

DORTMUND – The largest transit authority in the densely populated German state of North Rhine Westphalia, VRR; has declared that Deutsche Bahn AG (German Railways) subsiderary DB Regio in Breach of Contract, thus enabling the transit agency to begin immediately introduction of corrective actions including possible contract termination and replacement of DB Regio services with the services of one or more of its competitors. On-going reliability and security staffing problems on various S-Bahn commuter rail lines, mostly in the evening hours after 7:00 PM, was the trigger for the legal declaration made by VRR.

VRR had determined that service quality had fallen in the evening and night hours with a trend that suggested reliability was going to fall even further. A primary issue was the number of trains staffed with security personnel, which had fallen to an average of 83%, although VRR had paid for 100% of all trains to have a security detail The service contract between VRR and DB Regio stipulates a 90% minimum security coverage rate.

For the time being passenger on North Rhine Westphalia’s S-Bahn network, a system of EMU trains running frequent (between 5 minute and 60 minute frequencies) fast local / commuter trains which is roughly comparable to the commuter rail networks operated by the LIRR, Metro North and SEPTA, will remain unchanged. The transit agency will now seek legal remedies to either force DB Regio to improve service quality or otherwise replace DB Regio with a different passenger rail operator.

Safety and security of passenger trains in the state in the northwestern part of Germany has been a high priority ever since Lebanese students attempted to simultaneously bomb two different North Rhine Westphalia commuter trains back in the summer of 2006 in retaliation for images published in German and other European newspapers and magazines allegedly depicting the Prophet Mohammed.


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Rail Advocacy Group Decries Shrinking German Rail Network

Germany Second Only To Poland In Abandonment Of Rail Lines In Europe

BERLIN -- Nowhere else in Europe has the rail network shrunk as much as in Germany and Poland, according to a press conference given by the German pro-rail transit advocacy group “Allianz Pro Schiene.” The pro-rail transit group highlighted a 16.5% reduction in rail lines within Germany during a 15-year period ending in Dec. 2005. In the years 2006 through present day additional rail lines have been closed in Germany, primarily in the eastern part of the country, which continues to suffer from an exodus of population and jobs. Despite the reduction in track – kilometers both passenger and freight traffic have set new records in the past three years, according to Dirk Flege, group chairman.

Graphics by: Allianz Pro Schiene

Right - German rail route – kilometers over time.
Left - Rail network reductions comparing Germany and Poland to EU average.

“Only Poland closed more rail lines and track than Germany in the same period. Other European countries have clearly had smaller reductions in their rail network, and a few have actually increased the size of their networks,” added Mr. Flege. “The (German) government and Parliament must act now to reverse this course with an infrastructure investment offensive.” Although Germany has added about 800 km of all new high speed rail lines and 400 km of new commuter rail lines (mostly in the Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich and Cologne / Düsseldorf regions) since 1990, several thousand kilometers of secondary and a few primary rail lines have been idled or even ripped up and completely abandoned.

Mr. Flege made the statements in reaction to draft legislation in the German Parliament to keep federal investment and operational payment in the German rail network at the same €  2.5 billion (US $3.7 billion) level as last year. “Allianz Pro Schiene” and other pro-rail groups say that this level of funding could result in a further 5% reduction in the German rail network’s capacity.


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Rail Travel Punctuality In Great Britain
Reaches All-Time High

Rail Travel Setting New Records In Great Britain

MANCHESTER – In the 12-month period ending on 31 March, 2008, passenger trains in Great Britain hit a system-wide post-privatization high of 89.9%. Record values in on-time trains, infrastructure investment, cost reductions and efficiency gains are the main points of the past twelve months, according to figures released by Network Rail on the 6th of June.

Figures for April 2008 show that punctuality further improved to over 90% with 25% more train traffic on the island nation’s rail system than in 1995, when privatization of British Rail began.

Network Rail chairman Ian McAllister said: “Train performance is at an all time high, a GBP 4 billion (US $7.8 billion) investment program has been delivered, delays caused by the infrastructure have been cut and costs have also been reduced. No form of transport is safer than rail and record levels of investment are being pumped into the network, with a doubling of spending on schemes designed to build a bigger, better railway to help meet the growing demands of passengers and freight users.”

British passenger rail travel has been increasing steadily in the past 4 – 5 years with growth placing serious strains on both infrastructure and rolling stock. The country has marked a major turn over in rolling stock in the past decade with billions of dollars worth of new DMU and EMU train sets and new freight locomotives placed into operation as well as re-activation of a number of long dormant rail lines and renovation of other lines. Despite the in-phasing of large numbers of new passenger rail train sets, many trains remain seriously overcrowded.

Passenger train on-time reliability (British Network Rail)


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...

David Peter Alan Replies To Mark Shapp’s Letter In D:F of June 16th

 

I share Mr. Shapp’s concern and frustration over Amtrak’s plan to provide very little rail service north of New Haven during the bridge replacement at New London.  While I agree with most of Mr. Shapp’s comments, I take issue with his criticism that “none of those taking Amtrak to task for the shut down ... have advanced reasonable alternatives to shutdown.”

 I believe that I proposed a “reasonable alternative” in the June 9th edition of this column.  Jim RePass has also proposed reasonable suggestions.  So have my colleagues at NARP; particularly Ross Capon, George Chilson and Al Papp.

We all talk with Amtrak management, but that does not ensure that Amtrak will implement our suggestions.  Personally, I still believe that Amtrak should have offered more service.  Still, three trains are better than one.  The riding public has more trains during the bridge replacement project than Amtrak was originally prepared to offer, and I credit us in the rail advocacy community for prodding Amtrak into improving their offer of service.

New England’s rail riders would have gotten a worse deal if we had not pushed for more trains during the work period.  That is why all of us must keep up our effort to improve service on Amtrak and local rail transit, on behalf of the riding public.

David Peter Alan
South Orange, N.J.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2008 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

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